Monthly Archives: October 2019

Good Girl, Bad Girl – Michael Robotham

It’s been hard yakka with some of the books I’ve chosen to read this calendar year. Dense, in some cases pompous prose – it’s been a struggle to find positives with some of them and only my stubbornness kept me going to their end. And that seemed to take forever as I never relished returning to plough on.

The new Michael Robotham was next on my list. He’s a favourite from recent times (‘The Secrets She Keeps’, ‘The Other Wife’) after I had persevered with favourites from times past. Would he let me down too with ‘Good Girl. Bad Girl’? Not on your Nelly. He grabs you in and holds you. There’s no frippery with his wordsmithery. He’d never be in line for the Booker. But, he tells a terrific yarn, in a no-nonsense style and there’s always twists and turns, as well as few red herrings thrown in for good measure.


Composing this, a fortnight after I turned the last page, for the life of me I can’t remember whodunnit – who murdered the young aspiring figure skater. I do remember it was a convoluted, but thoroughly enjoyable, process getting there – so it matters little. This didn’t quite reach the classiness of the two aforementioned titles, but there was immense pleasure in returning to it – so in contrast to many that went before. I was through it in very few sittings – or in my case, usually, lyings down. This turned out to be quite the salve for this reader who was starting to get just a touch jaded.

In her review for the ‘NY Journal of Books’, Charlotte Mendel describes Robotham’s tome as ‘…an impeccable thriller that encompasses murder, incest, drugs, abuse, sex – you name it, the book has it.’Good Girl, Bad Girl’ will uproot your preconceptions about the meaning of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and scatter them to the winds.’

That might be over-egging it somewhat. Sure the novel features all those human frailties, but they don’t dominate. It’s more about the relationship between forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven (and we’re promised that future books will feature him some more, as has one past publication) and troubled teen Evie Cormac. He comes across her whilst investigating the slaying of the young sportswoman.

Cyrus isn’t quite, yet, the compelling character the ‘The Other Wife’s’ Joe O’Loughlin, the clinical psychologist who has featured in a whole swag of his previous oeuvre, is. He’s obviously down pat – Cyrus perhaps needs a little polishing up. Ms Cormac, who can be both very good and very odious, has a special talent. She is able to ascertain whether one is fibbing or telling the truth – a portable human lie detector. It’d be a great skill for a poker player to have, wouldn’t it? Nonetheless, it hasn’t made her pathway to adulthood any the easier, but a bond or sorts develops between her and the psychologist, so much so that he convinces some very liberal judge to make her his ward. Silly move Cyrus. It’s inevitable that she becomes entangled in the investigation of the cruel cutting off of a talented young person’s life. Inevitably Haven soon has a range of suspects lined up, including some dodgy members of the figure skater’s own nearest and supposedly dearest. All very intriguing and compelling.


Now here’s the rub. Such is his excellence I’ve been tempted into Robotham’s back catalogue. As if there isn’t enough to read with new releases alone. It’s something that I promised myself, for common sense sake, that I’d never do, but MR has me well and truly in awe. At least I know I am certain of a great ride. I’ve gone back to his beginnings as a published author. There’s ten more. Oh dear!

The crime author’s website – =

Some Dads

Despite its success in the US, ‘This Life’ never caught on in Oz. One of our free-to-air commercial networks thought they must have been on a winner, given its three Emmys (to date) and scores of nominations, so they screened it. But it didn’t gel with the local audience and was soon moved from prime time to the nether regions of the subsidiary channels, seemingly only shown when they needed a filler. Leigh and I became attached to the series early in the piece and managed to watch most of two seasons before it disappeared completely. There are now four seasons of it, with a fifth to follow, so it is good news that Amazon Prime has picked it up. As to whether my lovely lady and I will hop back on, given the plethora of quality tele to be had on various platforms, remains to be seen, but it is a very worthy and entertaining series.

this is

As to what it’s all about, Ian Cuthberson describes it adequately in his short column which follows. In it he also compares Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack Pearson as a father to his own. The Jack character is one of the major attractions of the show, with Milo V winning a coveted Emmy for leading male actor for such is the impact the role has had in home territory. This is remarkable given he is dead for large chunks of the show. The early adoption of Randall as the black triplet is a tad hard to swallow but, gee, the series is a great depiction of family dynamics – specifically American family dynamics. That was, perhaps, its problem for Australian audiences. But if you have Prime, you could do worse.

jack pearson

Cuthbertson’s father’s attitude to his child(ren?) is miles away from Jack’s. It’s more akin to Sam Neill’s old man. He was very much ‘old school’ too – all matters of parenting, excepting perhaps disciplining, left up to the wife. I had the pleasure of my own dear mother’s company during a recent stay at Sisters Beach so, looking for a show she may be interested in that was new to her, I introduced her to ‘Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery’. Now into its seventh season – I’m looking forward to Bill Bryson this week – we went back into ABCiView and found Sam. I’d already seen it before, but I know Nan is a fan of the NZ actor. It was just as poignant second time around. Sam gets quite emotional recounting his father’s aloofness. He is whimsical as he acts out some of the defining scenes of his encounters with his dad – encounters being a word chosen carefully. His father could never bring himself to use the ‘l’ word – and it was only after the death of the man who could show no affection that Sam realises how deep his father’s love was. His trip down memory lane is Episode 1 from Season 5. If you haven’t seen it already, take your own trip into iView before it disappears.

julia z

And then, for a complete contrast, we come to David Melrose. The Cumberbatch, as the titular Patrick (‘Patrick Melrose’, ABCiView) steals the show with a BAFTA-worthy performance, but almost as excellent was Hugo Weaving as Patrick’s chilling pa. Initially he is absolutely odious and dissolute. If you can survive the opening episode – and do try for you’ll be richly rewarded – we discover that he’s even worse. He’s depraved. Poor young Patrick didn’t stand a chance, considering his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is emotionally all over the shop as well. For me, ‘Patrick Melrose’ is one of the year’s best. I relished the dinner party from hell, starring an out of control Princess Margaret.


No father, not even Jack, is perfect – but David doesn’t even give lip service to fatherhood. Most of us menfolk will have a go at being the best we can possibly be. Heaven knows I adored my two – still do. I also delight, now, in sitting back and watching my son and son-in-law give a red hot go at being the best fathers they can possibly be too.

Ian Cuthbertson on Jack Pearson =

For This Is Us =

For Julia Zemeiro Home Delivery Sam Neill =

For Patrick Melrose =

The Carer – Deborah Moggach

There was a time when I consumed all UK writer Deborah Moggach could produce – lapped her up back last century, I did. But, for some reason I stopped – stopped before her mega-hits ‘Tulip Fever’ and ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’. Then, when I saw her latest severely discounted at K-Mart recently I snapped it up, forking out just a few bucks for. I’d been burnt before going back to favoured authors from past decades, but with the price of ‘The Carer’ it didn’t really matter if it was rubbish. I was also hoping that it would provide some lighter fare after the few heavier tomes that I’d been reading of late; ones that proved, ultimately, somewhat disappointing.

And yes, the novel certainly did that. As a bonus, it also wasn’t half bad. In fact I relished getting back to it and had it read in a few sittings. She hadn’t lost the touch that so appealed to me way back when.


The narrative is interestingly structured, but at its core are two tetchy siblings, Phoebe and Robert. They’re approaching sixty, living lives not totally to their satisfaction. Their widowed father is now demanding more of their attention – something they give, but with some reluctance. At 85 Dad’s starting to cease being capable of looking after himself, so they employ a live-in carer, Mandy. She quickly makes herself indispensable, becoming his companion and giving the old fellow a modicum of happiness. Initially the brother and sister are thankful; it eases the pressure. When they discover, though, that James has revisited his will, suspicions start to arise – and we start to think we know where this is going. After all, we hear all the time of oldies being duped out of the wealth, by unscrupulous minders, that would otherwise have gone to family.

Moggach has other ideas though. We’re introduced to the first of several surprises as we start to become privy to some back stories later in the tale. Apart from one, they are hardly shocking, just unexpected. With the exception the author perhaps over-eggs it all a tad; it being the only quibble I have with ‘The Carer’.


In all it’s a lovely, lovely read as the author quietly illuminates problems associated with ageing sons and daughters coping with one or more parents living in challenging circumstances. She doesn’t shy away from the nitty-gritty involved with this, but delivers with warmth and humour. Ms Moggach has won me back.

The author’s website =